There was a LinkedIn discussion in early 2013 May where someone posed the question: If you could pick three martial arts books for beginners, intermediate level practitioners, and master martial artists, what would they be?
1) The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu, by Wong Kiew Kit, my grandmaster, and the book that got me “into” kung fu.
2) Introduction to Kung Fu by Paul Eng.
3) An introduction to skeletomuscular anatomy based on Dr. Frank Netter’s images; I actually would not recommend Gray’s Anatomy for a total beginner at martial arts because, unless they are already trained as a dancer or have some other physical discipline that they have delved deeply into, it is unlikely that they have a subtle enough sense of their own body to make use of Gray’s Anatomy (I’m assuming we’re talking the first edition plates here). I’ve taken gross anatomy courses before and the Netter images are a godsend to anatomists, physiologists, and would-be physicians.
1) The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu, by Wong Kiew Kit; this is one of those multi-layered books that reveals more and more depending on your understanding and experience with martial arts.
2) The Complete Book of Shaolin, by Wong Kiew Kit. This is more complex and comprehensive than the previous book, with more chapters on philosophy, tactics, and the spiritual cultivation methods practiced at the Shaolin temples, in addition to kung fu.
3) Hung Gar Kung Fu by Bucksam Kong and Eugene Ho. This is perhaps the best book I have read that focuses specifically on what is popularly known as Hung Gar kung fu, though I have some concerns about the safety of some of the book’s meditation practices.
I’m not an expert myself, so I honestly can’t say what would be useful for such a person. I’d recommend the “Intermediate” books again, to be honest. What do experts look for in books, anyways? The experts I’ve met tend more towards deepening their own training/skills/force or expanding their skill-sets and in some cases actually shied away from books (they preferred face-to-face instruction).
Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming’s books are excellent. I recently got his Northern Long Fist book and realized that if I had run across his books first, I may very well have gone on to join his school rather than the school I am a part of today. I have some major safety issues with parts of Northern Long Fist, especially in the flexibility and stance chapter, but overall, it is a rather nice and comprehensive book.